, December 07, 2021

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London, Kids, and Obesity


  •   3 min reads
London, Kids, and Obesity

Nearly 40% of London’s children are overweight or obese. Fast food restaurants are partly responsible for this issue. Moreover, a recent survey led by Soil Association, showed that children’s menus in family friendly fast food are not suitable for kids.

London, and the UK in general, is well known for its fast-food restaurants. But, from a health point of view, it is quite problematic, especially for children. A study, conducted by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), established a link between children’s obesity and fast food. To solve this, for a few years now, associations and government multiply studies and actions.

A report, published on the 20th of June 2012 and conducted by the British Medical Journal, had established a link between children’s obesity and fast food:

“This study revealed a very high frequency of fast-food consumption among the schoolchildren. Taste, quick access and peer influence were major contributing factors. These schoolchildren are exposed to an obesogenic environment, and it is not surprising that in this situation, many of these children are already overweight and will likely become obese as adults”, said the BMJ’s report.

Children’s menus unsuitable for children

The Soil Association, a charity working for a better food system in the UK, had surveyed the family friendly fast-food, to know if their menus are suitable for kids. The answer is… NO!

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They established a classification of the 20th healthier famous fast food in the UK with the help of almost 100 “secret diner children”. Each of them, accompanied by his parents, had a precise list of criteria to check. Then a note out of 100 and stars out of 5 should be distributed. The winners of this classification is JD Wetherspoon, with 73/100 and 4 stars, following by Wahaca. The losers are Hungry horse and Pizza Hut (with 43/100 and 2 stars). Sustain, an alliance of organizations working with the Oil Association, conclude that:

“The campaign found that deep fried ingredients remain commonplace on most menus and that two in five children's puddings contained enough sugar to blow a child's entire daily allowance. At Pizza Hut, which came bottom of the league table and was the worst offender for sugary meals, a child eating a typical meal with a fizzy drink and dessert could easily consume 68 grams or 17 teaspoons of sugar. Additionally nine out of ten families were not offered tap water with their menu, a move which is likely to encourage them to order more unhealthy drinks”.

The increase of children’s obesity

A recent study showed that children obesity is increasing in London, more than in the rest of the UK. This report, led by Trust for London, an independent charitable foundation, established some key numbers:

“23.2% of children in Year 6 in London were obese in 2019/20, more than 20.2% of children who were obese in England.
1.9ppt increase in childhood obesity in London in the decade to 2019/20
29% of the childhood obesity rate un Barking and Dagenham, the highest for any London borough”.

Moreover, the BMJ has published, in 2019 a study demonstrating that:

“New data show that 4.4% of year 6 schoolchildren in England are classified as severely obese, the highest rate on record.1 The figures from NHS Digital show that the rate of severe obesity among 10-11 year olds has increased for the fourth consecutive year, up from 3.7% in 2014-15”.

Government reactions

In response to this worrying problem, in 2019, the City of London had decided to ban junk food ads on public transport.

“With 30 million journeys made every day on TfL’s network, its advertising sites offer a key opportunity to promote good food and a healthy lifestyle to both children and their family members or carers”, is written on the Mayor of London's website.

Furthermore, a Child Obesity Task force has been created to solve this issue.

“In London’s Health Inequalities Strategy the Mayor restated his commitment to addressing child obesity to affect a step change for all children across London, especially those who face the most challenging circumstances”, write the Task Force.

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